LIMA — Expectations have been high on Reds right-hander Homer Bailey since 2004.
He was a first-round draft pick that season and the No. 7 overall pick out of LaGrange High School in Texas. In his prep career, he went 41-4 with 536 strikeouts in 298 innings.
Since his major league debut in 2007, the 6-foot-3 right-hander has shown glimpses of what could be. Bailey can roll out a 95 mph fastball and a sneaky, nose-diving offspeed pitch.
But there’s also been control lapses and leaving pitches in hittable spots up in the zone.
Entering last season Bailey had made 37 appearances with the Reds, all starts, with a 12-13 record and 5.45 ERA.
Last season the 24-year-old finally began to show why he was a No. 7 overall pick.
Bailey started the season slow, with an ERA of 7.06 in April and 4.34 in May. He went on the disabled list for inflammation in his right shoulder and was out for June and July.
He returned to make 10 starts and went 3-1 with a 3.55 ERA after the All-Star break. On the season, over 19 starts, he went 4-3 with a 4.46. In 109 innings, he struck out 100 and walked 40.
Bailey was especially encouraged by this final 10 starts.
“That (being healthy) usually has something to do with it,” Bailey said at the Reds’ caravan Saturday at the Lima Mall. “Before I would come out of a game, there were a couple of games when I wasn’t feeling 100 percent. That could have had something to do with it, maybe it didn’t. Feeling physically better is always good, plus when I came back we were right in the race to win the division and it was an intense time. Those are the times, that as players, we like to play.”
Joining Bailey on the Reds’ stop in Lima were Reds manager Dusty Baker, minor league infielder/outfielder Todd Frazier, Reds broadcaster Chris Welsh, Reds public address announcer Joe Zerhusen and Reds mascot Rosie Red.
Bailey also began using his split-finger pitch more often.
“(Catcher) Ryan Hanigan and I do a good job together,” Bailey said. “We do a lot of talking on things that we want to do, things we want to try. Also having (pitching coach) Bryan Price has been an outstanding benefit.
“When I had my split and it was working (was big) and also having my fastball and curveball command. It’s improved over the years has definitely been a big help.”
In ’07, he had a 5.76 ERA in nine starts. Then, in ’08, his ERA ballooned to 7.93.
There were reports during those times that Bailey was reluctant to make changes that coaches suggested.
“I think when you have the right kind of coaches around you, you understand things a little bit better,” Bailey said. “That’s the big key. At AAA, I always had a lot of success when (pitching coach) Teddy Power was there and with Bryan Price, we work real well together. I think that’s a big change.”
Heading into this season, it appears the top three spots in the rotation are set with Edinson Volquez, Bronson Arroyo and Johnny Cueto. The last two spots will come down to Travis Wood, Mike Leake, Homer Bailey and Matt Maloney.
Whoever doesn’t make the rotation, will probably be ticketed for the bullpen.
“Anything you can do to help the team,” Bailey said. “I haven’t heard anything about coming out of the bullpen.”
Todd Frazier: World Series champ
Reds minor league left fielder/infielder Todd Frazier was the winning pitcher on the Toms River (N.J.) team that won the Little League World Series.
“That was unbelievable,” Frazier said on the caravan. “I was 12 years old and all you want to do is dream and make it to the big leagues. I was fortunate to get to play in the Little League World Series. It was unbelievable. It was just like getting to the major leagues, but at 12 years old in the World Series.”
Frazier hit .258 with 17 home runs and 66 RBIs as a left fielder/third baseman/first baseman at AAA Louisville last season.
“I feel my opportunities in the outfield are (the best),” he said. “The organization has unbelievable players up there, so it’ll be tough either way. I have to hit the ball to get a shot.”